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Hill Talk: Dirksen Installs Succulent New Green Roof

Correction Appended

It might not be easy being green, but it can be more cost effective — especially when it comes to roofs. 

The Dirksen Senate Office Building received a greener and more frugal roof earlier this month. 

The newly installed roof was covered with a layer of vegetation designed to save money by increasing energy efficiency and reducing storm water runoff and urban heat island effects, according to Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol. 

It will also “improve its visual appeal,” she said in an email. “The vegetative roof helps to reduce costs because it provides an insulation layer and the roof doesn’t absorb sunlight and heat like a regular roof does.”

Most of the plants are low-maintenance succulents, varieties of the stonecrop family.  

“These plants were chosen because they are hardy, do well in urban conditions, and are drought tolerant,” Malecki said. 

The 7,200-square-foot roof is projected to last two to three times longer than traditional roofing. 

Senate Parking Lots May Install Plug-In Stations 

There aren’t many of them on the roads, but the Senate may soon prepare its parking lots for electric plug-in vehicles. 

Legislation approved by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee last week would help bring electric-car recharging stations to the Senate parking lots. 

The construction, maintenance and electricity costs associated with the stations would be fully financed by fees charged to those who use them. 

Sen. Carl Levin, who drives a hybrid electric Chevy Volt, said the legislation was part of a larger push to support electric cars.

“It would be an important statement of leadership from the Senate,” the Michigan Democrat said in a release. “It would provide an example to other employers of how they can support both the needs of their employees and our national interest in energy security.” 

Rules and Administration ranking member Lamar Alexander, who drives a hybrid electric Nissan Leaf, said the stations are a good start for the Senate. 

“It’s a pilot program to do our part to take what I think is the best step forward in reducing our use of oil,” the Tennessee Republican said. “Small step, big step, no cost to the taxpayers.” 

In addition to Levin and Alexander, sponsors of the bill include Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), most of whom also drive hybrid electric vehicles. 

The proposal is in line with President Barack Obama’s goal to put a million electric vehicles on American roads by 2015, as well as his “green fleet initiative,” which requires most new government vehicles to be fuel efficient or use clean energy by 2015. 

Two House Committees Have iPhone Apps

At least 16 Members of Congress have put out their own iPhone applications — but Congressional committees? There might not be an app for that.

Only two of the 50 committees in Congress have developed iPhone apps. The first, created by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Republican team, was released last May. 

The application, titled GovWatch, aims to increase transparency and information sharing in government. Users can interact with the Republican committee members on several social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and the committee website. 

“GovWatch will help foster a more open government for the American people, putting information about transparency and oversight efforts in the palm of the taxpayer’s hand,” Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a release. “This app gives citizens an easy-to-use, mobile window on Washington available anytime, anywhere.” 

The House Ways and Means Committee also offers a free iPhone app. Available since March, the app allows users to more easily access the features available on the committee website. 

The app keeps users informed of the committee’s “most recent news, opinion editorials and floor statements,” according to the iTunes website. “It will also give you on-the-go access to the social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.”

Correction: May 19, 2011

An earlier version of this article mistakenly said all of the sponsors of the bill for electric-car recharging stations drive hybrid electric vehicles. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) does not.

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